Germany, Ukraine sign loan deal ahead of top level talks
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has talks in Berlin Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. They are expected to focus on security and extended economic aid to the cash-strapped Kyiv government.
Ahead of the talks, both governments announced on Wednesday the final approval of a nearly $600 million German loan, described by officials as “an important contribution” to rebuilding war-torn eastern Ukraine.
The loan, promised earlier by Merkel, was contingent on Kyiv’s commitment to widespread economic reforms, some of which have already been enacted by Ukraine’s new parliament.
Early Wednesday, as German President Joachim Gauck prepared to meet with Yatsenyuk, key German government websites came under attack by hackers demanding that Berlin cut ties with the Ukrainian government.
Pro-Russian hacker group CyberBerkut claimed responsibility in a statement posted on its website. It accused Yatsenyuk of seeking “multi-billion credits” from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to, in its words, “extend the war and not to restore collapsed infrastructure of our country.”
“Berkut” refers to the special riot police implicated in violence during last year’s protests against the rule of Ukraine’s Russia-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych.
More than 100 people, mostly protesters, were killed in the violence that brought down Yanukovych’s government. The unit was disbanded after his ouster.
Three soldiers killed
Meanwhile, Ukraine defense officials say three government soldiers have been killed since early Tuesday in eastern Ukraine by Russia-backed separatists.
Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko, speaking Wednesday, said one of the soldiers was killed by a sniper, another by small-arms fire and a third by mortar fire in separate incidents near the Russian border. A fourth Ukrainian soldier was wounded.
The rebellion in east Ukraine, which started in April, has killed more than 4,700 people to date. Kyiv and the West have accused Russia of fueling the uprising and directly supporting the rebels with personnel and weapons. Moscow denies the charge.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko plans to meet with the leaders of France, Germany and Russia on January 15 in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, for talks aimed at ending the crisis. Both Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have signaled that they will attend only if they see a chance for progress being made.